“The Academic Community would benefit from a More Widespread Participation in this Faculty Exchange Program”

Rodrigo Ventura 2011 

Rodrigo Ventura is an assistant professor at the Instituto Superior Técnico of Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (IST/UTL) and a researcher at the Institute for Systems and Robotics – Lisboa (ISR-Lisboa), who participated in the Faculty Exchange program at Carnegie Mellon University. He was hosted by Manuela Veloso, a Portuguese full professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) from January to May 2011.

Education and research were the main interests that lead Rodrigo Ventura to embrace this chance given by the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program. Ventura is one of the 30 researchers from Portuguese universities that have had the opportunity to spend one semester at Carnegie Mellon. While participating in the Faculty Exchange program, faculty are engaged with teaching courses and conducting research. This researcher believes that “even though the high level quality of most research carried out in Portugal, the academic community would benefit from a more widespread participation in this faculty exchange program.”

Rodrigo Ventura is an enthusiastic researcher in Robots, and while at CMU, he worked closely with Manuela Veloso with the CoBot project. The project consists of working with a robot developed by the Manuela’s Veloso research group and the goal of the project is to contribute to a multi-robot, multi-human symbiotic relationship, in which robots and humans coordinate and cooperate as a function of their limitations and strength. Ventura’s participation on this project focused “on the challenges of effectively deploying mobile service robots to real users.” Office and home environments are not robot-friendly; consequently many trivial tasks cannot be (reliably) performed by mobile robots. During his time at CMU, Rodrigo Ventura helped to develop architecture for users to schedule tasks to the robot, and even interacting with it during the task execution. On the other hand, the team guarantees “the execution of these tasks in order to both detect faults or other unexpected events, end to cope with them,” said Ventura. Currently, the CoBot robot is able to transport objects from A to B, and it is possible to do real-time monitoring of robot location and status, amd to perform telepresence.

For the past six years, Rodrigo Ventura lectures the course Artificial Intelligence and Decision Systems at the IST/UTL. So while at CMU he attended the Graduate Artificial Intelligence which allowed him to “apprehend many interesting aspects about the teaching of the course contents.” After this experience at CMU, Rodrigo Ventura submitted a proposal to the IST/UTL administration to create a Ph.D. course which could “cover a similar range of topics, but with more emphasis on robotics.” Rodrigo Ventura is proud to say that his proposal was accepted and he “will teach it during the 2012/2013 academic year.”

Rodrigo Ventura feels that the program was “extremely fruitful” in twofold: from a personal level it was positively enriching “in terms of improving my teaching and student supervision practices, as well as research-wise,” and from an institutional point of view, “it allowed to initiate a collaborative line of research, which is currently ongoing beyond the end of the exchange,” he said.

September 2011